How Robert F. Smith Employs Relationships to Coordinate a Philanthropic Response to COVID-19

As the coronavirus crisis gripped the country, Robert F. Smith recognized his unique ability to help coordinate a philanthropic response, at scale. 

“In times like this you have to think about the assets that you can truly leverage,” Smith said. “I have the great fortune of having relationships with very smart people. I’ve been on calls since five this morning.”

Smith worked with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to ensure that the local “capillary banking system” of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) were included in the government’s Payment Protection Program (PPP), helping Black-owned small businesses gain access to these critical small business loans. 

He challenged Finastra, a technology company that Vista Equity Partners invested in, to develop software for small lenders like CDFIs and MDIs to be able to better process PPP loans. Finastra helped more than 400 small lenders install this new software for free, worked to train their teams in this new technology and donated revenue they generated from PPP processing fees to local community food banks.

As the chairman of Carnegie Hall, he’s been working to organize online concerts to help people “stay connected and alive and excited about who we are.” 

To help students who need internet access or smartphones, two tools critical for remote learning, Smith’s worked with educational software provider PowerSchool, which is a Vista company, to provide free licenses to schools. 

Read more about Smith’s philanthropic efforts in Town & County